The 32nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry
Ebenezer Z. Hays
The organization of
this company was begun by Wilson M. Stanley, of New Castle, Coshocton County,
Ohio, very soon after the call for three thousand men made by in the summer
of 1861, say about July 10. It was composed almost entirely of Coshocton
County citizens. It rendezvous at Coshocton, Ohio, about the 20th day of
August, 1961. The company arrived at Camp Bartley, Ohio, the 29th day of
August, and was mustered into the service on the 31st of the same month,
to date from August 15, 1861. The rolls bore the names of one hundred and
ten men, and including the three who were afterwards, to-wit, September
3, 1861, mustered in as commissioned officers. There names were Wilson
M. Stanley, captain; Clarkson C. Nichols, first lieutenant, and George
F. Jack, second lieutenant.
Of the one hundred and men of the original
muster roll, the greater number were farmer boys, although there were a
few from other walks of life.
Captain W. M. Stanley was a blacksmith;
Lieut. C. C. Nichols was a merchant; E. W. James was a student and
teacher; John Thompson was a merchant; C. P. Crawford was a student; John
Conley was a potter; John Lynch a cabinet maker; E. Z. Hays a lawyer. There
was one plasterer, two saw mill men, one blacksmith, and three coal diggers.
Many were so young that it cannot be said of them that they represented
any business or advocation.
The date of enlistment of those men who
were mustered at Camp Bartley August 15, was a wrong to a large majority
of those mustered at that time, many of them having enlisted a month or
more before. Very few enlisted after August 10. Capt. Stanley said he fixed
this date (August 15) as an average and a convenience in making the muster
Captain Stanley had been mainly instrumental
in organizing the company. He had served in the Mexican War, and this fact
gave him standing as a military man and, it was thought, the necessary
qualifications for a company commander. However he did not prove a very
satisfactory officer. A large majority of his company disliked him heartily.
Very few of them respected him, nor did he stand in a much more enviable
relation with our field officers and the officers of other companies. There
is no doubt that, during the winter of 1861 he was a great sufferer from
rheumatism, which confined him to his quarters much of the time, and affected
his temper. He remained with the company only a few days more than five
months. The colonel of the regiment request his resignation and he quit
the service to enter it no more. The command then devolved on the first
lieutenant. This officer was generally a favorite with the enlisted men
of his own company, and was a genial, generous, easy-going fellow, full
of fun and frolic, not a drill-master, nor a disciplinarian, and having
an utter contempt for the red tape and forms of military methods. He failed
as a company commander, and realized he had failed. Col. Ford disliked
him, I think causelessly, and encouraged his resignation. He quit the company
at Beverly, W. Va., April 2, 1862.
Lieut. Nichols afterward entered the service
as captain of Company H, Ninety-seventh O.V.I., and made a splendid record
as a soldier and company commander.
Prior to Lieut. Nichols' resigning, to-wit,
on the 26th of March 1862, Lieut. G. F. Jack had tendered his resignation
and gone out of the company. This officer's only qualification for the
place he filled was that he had been in the three months' service as a
private in the Sixteenth O.V.I He was not disliked by the enlisted
men, but the majority of them were shrewd enough to see he was not cut
out for a commanding officer. He had no command over the company, nor influence
at regimental headquarters. Colonel Ford had also intimated to that officer
that his resignation would be accepted.
When Capt. Stanley selected his non-commissioned
officers he made a great mistake in choosing his orderly sergeant. Adam
Carnes was not the man for the place, and his inefficiency, ignorance,
and self-importance were very injurious to the company and distasteful
to the men. That officer was, during the temporary absence of Capt. Stanley,
reduced to the ranks by Lieut. Nichols, and E. W. James put in his place.
This was the first step in the reorganization of the company, and was an
Thus in about eight months from the muster
of the company we find all four of its chief officers displaced and its
three commissioned officers entirely out of the service, each under a cloud.
The circumstances, incidents, conditions and happenings that led up to
this situation necessarily affected the reputation of the entire company,
and line officers, and indeed by the entire regiment. Company K had the
reputation of being insubordinate and as abounding in "broad and comprehensive
ignorance." On the contrary, no company in the regiment responded more
readily to intelligent efforts in the line of discipline.
Now that the commissioned officers were
all gone, it was said the company had no material out of which a company
commander should be made. E. W. James was promoted to second lieutenant,
but Col. Ford had so poor an opinion of the material of the company that
he would not entrust Lieut. James with command of it, and Capt. Crombecker,
of Company A was assigned to that duty for the declared purpose of "breaking"
the company in, eradicating the insubordination that never existed, if
possible, by the inflexible enforcement of military authority by an iron
will. Capt. Crombecker was a brave officer and a genial gentleman.
But as I look back and recall the attitude he assumed toward the company
when he first came to it, I am amused. The men obeyed him implicitly, but
had an abundance of fun among themselves, in the privacy of the privates'
quarters, as they mimicked the captain's voice and gestures when impressing
upon them his mightiness. "Sammy" Campbell, a jolly, light-hearted Irish
boy, was particularly happy in his rendition of "Ten Days on Extra Duty,
Sir." It did not take Capt. Crombecker long to comprehend that he came
to the company under a misapprehension, and had started in wrong. He came
to know that the rank and file of Company K was not insubordinate, that
with only the average exceptions, they were as intelligent as the members
of any company in the regiment. But Capt. Crombecker made another
mistake. He contributed to the promotion of John McDonald to a second lieutenancy.
McDonald had been made a sergeant by Capt. Stanley, and by brass and a
glib tongue he pushed himself forward and secured promotion over other
sergeants who were better men. McDonald promptly fell in with Capt. Crombecker's
peculiar style of command, and in a very short time rendered himself obnoxious
by his arrogance and tyrannical methods. When the regiment was reorganized
he failed to report for duty, and appears on the company reports thereafter
as a deserter. He was not a citizen of the United States, and best an adventurer.
Capt. Crombecker gave us, finally, the credit that was ours, and the reputation
of the company began to come up. He was succeeded by Capt. J. J. Hibbetts,
who continued in command of the company until after the Harper's Ferry
disaster, and he was a very good and brave officer. As to the question
of whether or not the company had men within itself who were capable of
commanding it, I think I may say without detracting from the merits of
others, that Company K reached its summit of discipline and attained its
greatest proficiency in manual and tactics under officers who carried muskets
in the ranks from its organization, and whatever the value of its services
may have been to the government, its best work, longest marches and hardest
fighting was done under command of men borne on its own muster rolls at
its organization. The company was mainly composed of country lads and young
men from the country villages- the rural districts- and most of us may
have exhibited convincing evidence of verdancy, but I think the regimental
comrades will bear me out saying we got bravely over that.
At the reorganization of the regiment in
the winter of 1862-3 all but five responded to the command to report at
Camp Cleveland, O. E. W. James was now promoted to captain and given
command of the company, E. Z. Hays was made second lieutenant, and afterward
received commissions as first lieutenant and captain. Under the command
of Capt. James the company saw its hardest service and did its hardest
fighting, exhibiting on the field of battle the sterling courage of those
who filled its ranks. I believe, after this reorganization, there was no
question as to the discipline or inefficiency of the company, nor the capabilities
of its officers, and Company K, from being under a cloud, now took rank
with the proudest company in our grand and beloved regiment.
There are not many incidents of moment
connected with the service of this company that does not constitute a part
of the general regimental history.
The company took part in every fight in
which the regiment was engaged, and shared the fatigue of every march the
regiment made, and some of its members were to be found in about every
adventure in which any of the regiment was required to take a part. It
constituted a part of that force led, in dead of winter, by Major Webster,
of the Twenty-fifth Ohio, through the mountain snows on an expedition against
Huntersville, W. Va. , in the winter of 1861-62.
When in the same winter Gen. Milroy determined
to attack the rebel forces at Camp Allegheny, a small contingent of Company
K joined the volunteers organized from the Thirty-second to take a hand
in the anticipated engagement. I think most of us went because we were
fearful the war would be ended without our ever seeing a fight. The weather
was cold, the troops without shelter of any kind lay on the frozen ground
when not marching or fighting, and suffered greatly, and more time being
consumed in getting there and back than was anticipated, many suffered
for food, coffee especially. One member of K was very severely and dangerously
wounded in that engagement, and was carried by us on a litter from the
scene of the fight to Camp Cheat Mountain, where he lay until able to go
home, where he was discharged.
When the regiment came from Cheat Mountain
to Beverly, W. Va., in the winter of 1861-62, Company K was placed at Leading
creek, near where it emptied into the Tigart Valley river, where the road
from Beverly north down the Tigart Valley crosses Leading creek, and eight
miles north of Beverly. The company remained there about a month, during
which time it participated in the expedition led by Capt. Lucy, of A Company,
over into the valley known as the Dry Fork of Seneca. This was a severe
and toilsome march, through the snows of mid-winter, in a mountainous country,
the greater part of the way through almost virgin forests, innocent of
roads. This expedition ended without profit or glory.
When, in the spring of 1862, Gen. Milroy
began his advance toward Stanton, Va.. company K, under the command of
Capt. Crombecker, made a detour of something like twenty-five or thirty
miles on to the head waters of Knaps (or Naps) creek, a tributary of the
Kanawha. What this expedition was intended to accomplish I never knew,
nor can I conceive its object, even now.
After two or three days' absence we rejoined
the regiment at Monterey, Va., having marched double quick for a distance
of about eight miles, we having received information that Gen. Milroy's
command had been attacked at that place, and that we must reach him as
soon as possible.
From this time on until after the fall
of Vicksburg, the history of the regiment is the history of the company.
In the month of August, 1863, Company K,
under the command of Lieutenant E. Z. Hays, composed a part of an expedition
sent into Louisiana after forage, the entire force of about three hundred
being under the command of Major Crombecker. Col. B. F. Potts, of
the Thirty-second, started as commander of the expedition, but became sick
and was left behind at the landing. we were taken by boat to, I believe,
Goodrich's landing, on the Mississippi, and from there marched directly
west about fifty miles and then marched back again. This was in the very
hottest portion of the summer, and from where we left the Mississippi to
a point about fifteen miles west, there was, at that time, neither spring
nor well. The troops, unaware of this fact, drank out all the water in
their canteens in the first four or five miles of the march, and were necessitated
in dong the remainder of the distance without water. The sun was directly
overhead and burning hot. much of the way was along a double path, with
horse weeds between and on each side, reaching much above our heads, and
at other times through thick primeval forests, both of which shut off from
us any refreshing breeze that may have been on the wing. The result was
much suffering and men playing out who never, before or afterward, did
that thing. Otherwise this was not an unpleasant expedition. Although the
mosquitos took sides with the Confedrates and annoyed us fearfully at nights,
and even in the day, when halting or marching in the deep shadows of the
lower grounds, there were no casualties on this expedition except to coons,
rattlesnakes and mosquitos.
At Baker's Creek, on the Meridian campaign,
Company K and a part of G Company, under command of Lieutenant Hays, was
sent to reinforce Companies A and B on the skirmish line. Their assistance
enabled it to push forward, which it did, the muskets speaking spitefully,
the enemy replying with spirit from behind a rail fence; the regiment advanced
in line to easy musket range and delivered a couple of rounds at a battery,
which was doing all it could for the rebel cause, the skirmish line charged
with determination and soon the enemy were in full retreat, the skirmishers
followed on the double quick. As often as the foe made a stand, so often
the skirmishers charged with vim that the "Johnnies" would at once take
to their heels to save their hides. After pursueing the enemy something
like ten miles, Company K was relieved and ordered to take its place in
the regiment, but it was soon found to be a practical impossibility to
carry out the order, as they seemed to have no comprehension of any command
that would take them from the skirmish line. Of this fact I informed Col.
Hibbetts by messenger, who on his return reported to me that the colonel
had said, laughing the while, "Well, return to your company; tell Hays
to give them ---l." So Company K continued to aid in the chase, entering
the capital of Mississippi on the one side as the enemy went out the other.
On June 30, 1864, the date of the general
assault on Kenesaw Mountain, Company K was throw forwardmand to the left
of the extreme left of the army, deployed as skirmishers, and remained
there during the day, entirely isolated from the regiment. While we did
no fighting, the duty we performed was a very important service, as on
our watchful care depended the question of whether or not the enemy could
throw a force against the extreme left wing of the army without the knowledge
of the general commanding and without the left wing being prepared for
it. Without such precaution such a movement might have been made with reasonably
confidence in its sucess, as the advancing enemy would have been concealed
by the timber and underbrush of the forest up to the very moment of making
When Sherman withdrew the Seventeenth Army
Corps from the extreme left in front of Kenesaw Mountain and threw it to
the extreme right, touching the Chattahooche near Nickajack creek, our
regiment being the extreme left, Company K was advanced well to the front,
on the extreme left flank and deployed, with the instructions to hold our
position until one o'clock at night, then to quietly withdraw a safe distance
to the rear, take up a line of march toward the right of the army and rejoin
the regiment, which would (and did) withdraw as soon as darkness should
cloak its movements. Our position was quite near the picket lines of the
enemy, so near, in fact, that we could hear them giving commands and instructions,
although their words were uttered in an ordinary key. Here we remained
as instructed, firing a few shots from time to time. We were in a very
perilous situation, and had the movement of our forces been detected we
would not have got off as easily as we did. As it was we lost two non-commissioned
officers, Corporal "Zack" McElfresh, one of the best soldiers in the company,
killed, and Corporal Joshua Murser, captured. When the company was being
withdraw these officers made a mistake and marched into the rebel lines.
We came up with the command the afternoon of the next day, after a rapid
and very hot march, and were heartily congradulated on our sucessful getting
A few days after the happening of the event
just related, Company K, with Company E, skirmished all day with the enemy
with the Chattahoochee river between us and them, near where that river
receives the waters of the Nickajack creek. No casualties.
The history of the company henceforth is
devoid of any striking incidents peculiar to it alone.